Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Where do you find your joy? Oh, I know- ideally, on a really good day, in a moment of Full Awareness and Spiritual Insight we can find and appreciate joy in every moment. But, I’m thinking here of the joy that can be found in a hope-I-can-get-the-kids-to-bed-before-I-collapse kind of human day. Because I am pretty sure that besides deep restorative sleep (which is so necessary) the other thing we need in order to meet the challenges of daily life and the news that oil geysers are blackening the ocean waters and the economy is wobbling unpredictably is joy.

Lately, I’m beginning to see that joy is predicated on a radical level of self-knowledge and self-acceptance. It’s about giving up the struggle to be better or different than you are, about seeing what you have to work with (mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually etc.) and, accepting this, finding what feeds your heart so you can offer the best of what you are to the world. The “Green Bough” in the title of this blog is from the Chinese proverb: If I keep a green bough in my heart the singing bird will come. The singing bird is joy that gives us hope, cultivates faith and offers us renewed energy. The green bough is the holding of who and what we are (not what we think we should be or could be some day) in our hearts without reservation, with humour and deep self-acceptance.

I find joy in lots of places and activities but never more consistently than during my early morning hours. While the city is still quiet I rise and make a cup of tea and return to bed to write my dreams, do my prayers and read something that stirs my imagination (at the moment it is Jungian analyst James Hollis’ Swamplands of the Soul : New Life in Dismal Places, and Azar Nafisi’s Things I’ve Been Silent About: Memories of a Prodigal Daughter.) I read and take notes. I am moved to write and reflect and contemplate. And I delight in the learning, the exploration, the words on the page of the book I am reading or the journal I am writing. And almost every morning, at some point, I pause and feel the thrill of not wanting to be anywhere else, doing anything else, being anyone else. I let the moment sink in- the delight and the privilege of being who and where I am. And I whisper to the dawning light with an overflowing heart, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

I know- not everyone’s idea of a good time and an image of me in bed reading and writing wouldn’t make a very effective good-time commercial. But that’s the thing about joy- because it’s predicated on self-acceptance it happens in the places where we are most ourselves and that’s different for each individual.

Joy is the giggle of delight that releases the tension we did not even know we were holding in our necks and shoulders and big toes. Joy is what we feel when a moment of prayer, a cup of tea or well written phrase returns us to a sense of connection to our inner selves when we weren’t aware that we had wandered away from our own centre. It’s the exhale of arriving at an inner home we thought we could never forget. It is sometimes bittersweet as we realize how long we have been driving on autopilot, disconnected, not really taking in the world or our day or our own soft animal body and human heart.

Sometimes we forget that joy is the point: the deep pleasure in all aspects of being that comes when we know we are exactly where we need, want and desire to be; when we need, want and desire to be exactly where we are and find ourselves spontaneously saying, “This is good. Thank you.”

Lately, as I read letters and do counselling sessions I listen carefully, asking myself, “Where does this person find joy?” Sometimes if the person is wandering in the deep woodlands of confusion or grief or weariness I have to watch carefully for the small white stones dropped by the soul on the dark forest floor as markers pointing to their particular path of joy. Because although we humans can live through long periods of hardship and illness, of uncertainty and suffering, we cannot live fully without joy.


  1. My Inner Guide once told me -- and I am consistently reminded -- to "live without hesitation, die with no regrets". I don't always remember, but I think it pops up for me when it's needed.


  2. I was discussing the subject of joy recently with my partner. Having been unwell with CFS/ME for the past eighteen months, my life has at times looked like a pretty joyless landscape, but what I found myself explaining to him, was that because being unwell has forced me to be still and contemplative, I've become more present and aware of the things I may not have noticed in such soul felt detail, when I was well and busy. Last week I was moved to tears with a flood of joy that came from looking at a patch of wild weeds in the garden. The green-ness and perfection and presence of the plants impacted me on a deep level which I'm sure sounds pretty strange, but I believe joy is found in those everyday moments when we are truly appreciative of the beauty of what is.

  3. a touching reminder of what lives within. "it happens when we are most ourselves".
    beautifully written. I enjoy your blog very much.

  4. Where do I find Joy?....After reading this weeks blog, I realised im thinking to far into it, trying desperatley to think of where I find my joy. When really I find the most joy in the simple things, messing around with my brother and his friend, talking to my other brother who lives on the other side of the world online, and the time each week when I ride horses - In that time I feel the joy of being completly focused on the beautiful creature beneath me and feeling connected to it in some unspoken way. I find joy in my newly found freedom, but I also fear that, that the freedom is too much and I'll never amount to anything. I hope that my heart will guide me in the right direction here.

    I still feel that im seaching for full pure Joy, the kind that you can feel in your finger tips, but for now these small joys are enough, enough to keep me grounded and enough to keep me going.


    Phoebe, England

  5. I see joy as something I am, not something I do. Rather than trying to seek for joy I find I have to let joy through the barriers I put up - like the struggle, the acceptance, the denial of who I am.

    My aha moment came eight years ago while at a conference doing an anger release exercise. I "failed" the first time and decided to give it my best shot on the second try - I just didn't think I was an angry person.

    Then part way through try number two I noticed how much joy I was experiencing feeling angry. The more I let myself be angry and move the energy out of my body the more filled with joy I became. The joy didn't replace the anger, it had been masked by the anger.

    That's why I see those early morning hours and the simple moments as the times or places I experience joy the "easiest" ... because my defences are down, there is nothing (or at least much less) to hide behind, and I can shine through.

    Thanks for the reflection.

  6. as always a timely post dearest Oriah. Thank you for reminding that if we don't find joy in between....all the betweenness then it escapes far too quickly.

    i read this article and shared with my mother this week. perhaps will resonate with you and your readers in accepting where one is and in finding you.

    Wabi Sabi Translating the Beauty in Imperfection

  7. I just want to thank you for writing about things that I find quite subtle and difficult to express myself. And I want to thank you for your rigorous honesty about yourself. It truly lights up your writing. And affirms your message about how whole we already are.
    Mary La Croce

  8. Oriah,
    Thank you for reminding me that joy can be found here, now. It often seems as if my mind takes the things of the present and piles them on to some traveling overstuffed caravan who's destination is either the past or the future. This makes it hard to absorb the fine details of the present. I get caught up in the haze unconsciously and sometimes need to get snapped out of it by words such as yours in this blog today, an unavoidable pain, or even my three year old's stomping feet. It's like this neverending pull toward somewhere else.

    The times in my life where I feel the most tapped into this joy of living in the moment are when I make a conscious effort to identify that those squeaky rusted wagon wheels aren't rolling up to bring me to a better place because there is no better place despite what kind of muck or burning hot lava or craving I appear to be standing in now. Pain in these moments of awareness becomes less about victimization or helplessness or fear and while it doesn't disappear, there is a new shape to it. A shape with a hint of rightness with what is, a tinge of surrender, a wet flowing release within my suffering or happiness. Suddenly my eyes open and I can see the shimmering sun on the wall or the shapes of objects or the vibrancy of colors, feel the texture of whatever is in my grasp, smell the scents of today's baking...

    The hardest part for me here is to first identify when I am not in the present. But what great joy I feel when I am here! It seems as if there are phases when I pull away and check out by eating bad foods, watching too much TV, fantasizing etc...and there are phases when my mind is present and I am here for my family and myself, I am physically and spiritually active and energetically tackling my day.

    The more I am conscious about being present though, the less I define myself by any of these things or whether they are good or bad and the freer I am to experience Joy for what is. My greatest joy is definitely in those times I can be in the here and now.

  9. a.q.s,

    Your reference to beauty in imperfection reminded me of a valuable insight I had while in (non-touristy) Mexico. I went nuts the first day or two looking at how crooked the tiles were placed, the haphazard layout of buildings, and the lack of rhyme and reason for the colour schemes.

    When I finally let go I couldn't believe how relaxing and releasing it was to have all this so-called imperfection surround me - there was nothing that stood out as glaringly misplaced. Everything just was.

    Upon arriving home I could feel the tension build again as the imperfections stood out against the strives for perfection. And the vibrancy of standing out was replaced with the blandness of colours to meld in.